Strong interpersonal communication skills (ICS) are critical for educational and career success, but effective and widely accessible training systems are not available. This paper describes a 2 × 2 × 2 experimental study of an online, educational simulation for practice with the ICS of active listening. The simulation was customized for women graduate students in the natural sciences and engineering. In such environments, where gender stereotyping is common, ICS can make the difference between continued progress and discouraging setbacks. The pedagogical effects of following three instructional support variables were investigated: (1) elaborative versus simple feedback (2) presence versus absence of a static image to accompany the content delivered aurally by a human pedagogical agent, and (3) presence versus absence of instructional hints. The four outcome measures were self-reported knowledge about, skill in applying, and self-efficacy with respect to active listening, along with the usability of the simulation itself. Participants in the study included N = 137 women in the natural sciences and engineering. Results showed that the instructional support variables were significantly related to the outcome measures of knowledge, skills, and usability, but not self-efficacy with respect to active listening. A three-way interaction among all three of the instructional support variables was found to be statistically significant for both the knowledge and skills outcome variables; for both, the highest scores were obtained by participants who were presented with elaborative feedback and neither pedagogical agent image nor hints. Also, participants who received elaborative feedback reported the simulation to have significantly greater usability than those who received simple feedback.
- Active listening
- Elaborative feedback
- Graduate women in STEM
- Interpersonal communication skills
- Online educational simulation
ASJC Scopus subject areas